Welsh Journals

Search over 450 titles and 1.2 million pages

After the Restoration the Society of Mines Royal was reorganized and an arrangement made with the Mineral and Battery Works whereby they elected one governor, nine deputy-governors and thirteen assistants for the two under- takings. In 1670 another subsidiary company was formed with a view to mining silver more intensively than had been done up to then. This was known as The Under- taking for the Working of Mines Royal in the Counties of Cardigan and Merioneth. Little of its history is known, and it is believed that after the capital of £ 4,200 had been spent, it was wound up, and 'the society reverted to the system of farming out the mines royal in certain areas.1 The principle had already been established that when ore from any mine yielded so much gold or silver that the value thereof exceeded the charges of re- fining, and loss of the baser metal in which it was contained, then it was called rich ore or Mine Royal and as such belonged to the Crown. On the contrary, where the value of the gold or silver so extracted did not exceed the charge of refin- ing, and loss of the baser metal, then it was called poor ore or a poor mine. 'And herein', says Pettus, 'consists the skill and honestie of the Refiner; for some have made very great Products from that very Oar, from which less skilful Essayers could extract nothing. Nevertheless there were those who were prepared to argue that all metals contain gold or silver, and therefore that all veins of metal belong to the Crown. The legal position seems to have been sufficiently indefinite for some time after the Restoration to encourage considerable litigation between the society of Mines Royal and various adventurers, so that no lawyer worth his metal was ever without a brief. The cause celebre, not unexpectedly perhaps, involved the House of Gogerddan. As we have seen, one of the greatest obstacles which faced the society and its farmers in north Cardiganshire was the resolute opinion of the Pryse family that the right to minerals discovered on their lands was implied in their title to the estate. The matter was brought to a climax early in 1690 with the discovery of a rich vein of minerals at Esgair Hir on the mountains above Cwmsymlog and Talybont, within the parish of Llanfihangel Genau'r Glyn. Nothing seems to have caused greater excitement in London during the next few years, particularly among noblemen, lawyers and merchants, than the unyielding stubbornness of Sir Carbury Pryse, the small country squire and Member of Parliament for Cardigan. The first attack in this battle royal seems to have been officially launched by the Right Hon. Henry Earl of Suffolk, who, on 22 October 1690, petitioned the House of Lords that Simon Pryse and Edward Pryse had disturbed him in his quiet possession of a royal mine, and, while Parliament was sitting, had caused the ore raised there to be carried away. Evidence was given at the Bar of the House by Rice Vaughan, who, in answer to certain questions put to him, affirmed that Lady Pryse and others were responsible for this breach of privilege against the Earl of Suffolk. Witness admitted that he had employed horses to carry away 1 Scott, supra, Vol. II, p. 404. 2 Pettus, p. 9.